Cat and Mouse

To Lydia, there was an acute anticipation and perplexing excitement wrapped around her alone-time bottle. But first she had to accomplish her chores in order to be able to drink in peace. Normally, the first order of duty, upon coming home from Spec’s, was stashing the bottles so Henry would not stumble upon them.

Lydia replenished the liquor in the bar. Although she tried to stay away from it, she inevitable drank away at least one, if not more, of the bottles before she was able to make it back to Spec’s. A long-standing cat and mouse game existed between Henry and Lydia. Lydia was sure he kept tabs on the level of liquids that were in each of the bottles. Lydia in turn also kept tabs so that she would put in the exact amount back. Lydia didn’t know what would happen if this game didn’t exist, if Henry didn’t try to exert control, and if she didn’t try to outwit him. It was insanity. She was sure of that. She never told any of her friends, never told anyone, of the craziness that played out between her and Henry. She was ashamed of it. And yet, there was a coyness to the situation. She knew he cared. So, while she could not let him cut off her supply of alcohol, she played along and let him think he was making a difference. The idea that Henry and Lydia would ever have an adult, rational conversation about Lydia’s drinking was laughable. Some things, Lydia thought, were better left in the closet.

Lydia walked back into the kitchen and started putting the groceries away. She was an expert chef, had learned over the years. But now that the kids were gone, Henry was mostly at work, Lydia didn’t really have an occasion for cooking. Well, that would change, she thought, as she stood looking at her cabinets. Lydia would have a dinner party. This day was just getting better and better. A party. That was what the situation called for. She would start right away planning a menu and ordering invitations. Lydia slammed her palm down on the granite counter-top, and she would only invite women.

Lydia turned on the music and as she opened a bottle of wine. In the coolness of the refrigerator, two more bottles were tucked away in the vegetable crisper.

When Sad Things Happen on Sunny Days

It is somehow worse, Lydia thought, when sad things happen on sunny days.

Lydia sat by the pool, two ice cubes melting under the stare of the hot in her glass of bourbon. Any other day, any other time, one might have thought she was luxuriating under the elms in order to bring a rose hint to her cheeks. But today, unable to move, to move put one foot in front of the other, she was sitting.

He just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. There was no fight, no hysteria. She wanted to muster the energy to throw something or cause a scene, but a scene for who? Why? To what end? He had left a long time ago, or so it seemed. All he did now was occupy a space in the closet. Its good he’s gone. Lydia thought for a moment about the kind of fear, stagnation that caused a person to stay, against all hopes of happiness, for just a little longer.

Yes, there should have been an argument, Lydia determined. It would have looked better. It would have made a better story for the girls. Lydia imagined a handful of select women scattered around her den, sipping some sort of cocktail appropriate for the solemn occasion. Someone would pat her back as she sobbed and recounted the tearful accusations, the appeals to stay, the shattered Baccarat, and finally the pointed finger showing the way out.

But instead, he just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. Left a note. She wouldn’t have even noticed he was gone had he not left the note. Lydia looked down at the bonded paper she had been holding this whole time. There was no need to read it again. It held no answers. Nor did it need to. Lydia knew the problems. Had known it for years. She originally said she was staying for the kids, but they had left a long time ago, off to lived their own lives in distant places. But then she still stayed. With a sigh, Lydia realized she stayed because she wanted to. No, it was true; the marriage was over a long time ago. But Lydia loved the house with the trees and the sparking pool. She loved her place amongst their society. And she loved her husband.

As she put the rocks glass against her lips, she smiled. She loved the bourbon.

What Lydia did not love was being the subject of speculation. It was hard to contemplate Christmas while the shone so brightly, but she knew it would be here faster than she could imagine. Lydia squinted off into the distance as if this small change in perspective would somehow give her foresight into the future. In her daydream, Lydia saw women leaning conspiratorially over the dinner table to their husbands, “But we can’t invite both of them. It’s too soon. Do you think she found out?” Lydia and her husband had this conversation themselves many times over. They feigned concern, but in the light of the summer afternoon, Lydia admitted to only the trees that it was really just a way to pass idle gossip off as something more than it was. They would invite her husband, of course, save a select few.

Lydia looked down at the empty glass. She wanted more. But she usually wanted more. That was nothing new. Lydia hoisted herself up from the pool chair and walked towards the backdoor. That’s the odd thing about change, it seems to happen quickly, without warning. He just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. It felt like an instant, but in reality, it had taken years. One shirt in the bag this year, a pair of shoes the next, until twenty-five years later the bag was packed.

Lydia paused as she looked at her reflection in the glass of the backdoor. She was still young. Weathered, perhaps, but still beautiful in certain lights. Lydia knew one day she would have to sell the house and leave the neighborhood that she knew she could not afford by herself. But she will find a new house. And new friends. She will find a new lover, feel new fingers press into her hips. A sly smile crossed her lips. She might even quit drinking. Lydia took the bottle in one hand, the glass in the other, and walked further into the recesses of her dark house. But none of that would happen today. All she had to do today was this.

When Sad Things Happen on Sunny Days

It is somehow worse, Lydia thought, when sad things happen on sunny days.

Lydia sat by the pool, two ice cubes melting under the stare of the hot sun in her glass of bourbon. Any other day, any other time, one might have thought she was luxuriating under the elms in order to bring a rose hint to her cheeks. But today, unable to move, to move put one foot in front of the other, she was just sitting.

He just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. There was no fight, no hysteria. She wanted to muster the energy to throw something or cause a scene, but a scene for who? Why? To what end? He had left a long time ago, or so it seemed. All he did now was occupy a space in the closet. Its good he’s gone. Lydia thought for a moment about the kind of fear, stagnation that caused a person to stay, against all hopes of happiness, for just a little longer.

Yes, there should have been an argument, Lydia determined. It would have looked better. It would have made a better story for the girls. Lydia imagined a handful of select women scattered around her den, sipping some sort of cocktail appropriate for the solemn occasion. Someone would pat her back as she sobbed and recounted the tearful accusations, the appeals to stay, the shattered Baccarat, and finally the pointed finger showing the way out.

But instead, he just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. Left a note. She wouldn’t have even noticed he was gone had he not left the note. Lydia looked down at the bonded paper she had been holding this whole time. There was no need to read it again. It held no answers. Nor did it need to. Lydia knew the problems. Had known it for years. She originally said she was staying for the kids, but they had left a long time ago, off to live their own lives in distant places. But then she still stayed. With a sigh, Lydia realized she stayed because she wanted to. No, it was true; the marriage was over a long time ago. But Lydia loved the house. She loved her place amongst their society. She even loved the trees and the sparkling pool. And she loved the bourbon.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Courage II

As I have published my short story, Courage, something keeps itching my brain. There is a stereotype regarding the type of woman who finds herself alone and abused, a stereotype which I have perpetuated. And the reality is that all people, men and woman, rich and poor, from the city and from the country, have suffered that humiliation and pain of abuse. So, I rewrite and re-post, one story next to the other. I wonder if it sounds any different.

She’s been thinking a lot about courage today. She didn’t think she was an especially courageous person. No, courage was not the characteristic about her that immediately sprang to mind.

She was many things. Many great things, perhaps. She didn’t really know. intelligent, maybe, and perhaps ambitious. She was lead in a merger last quarter which brought her acclaim from the partners. They said in the next review her shares would increase. She didn’t tell them the merger was less her success than the other counsel’s failure. So, maybe she wasn’t all that honest either.

But this morning, she thought of herself as courageous.

She, perhaps, had not been courageous the first time he hit her. The time she yelped as she was hit, before she learned that he enjoyed her cries of pain and surprise.

But today, she is courageous.

No, she had not  been especially courageous the many times since the first time, when she slunk to the back bedroom and did her best to remain quiet, lest he hear her over the sound of the TV.

But today, the luggage was packed and sitting by the door, waiting for her to pick it up and walk out for good

Nor had she been especially courageous the last time, when she had to go to the hospital. The doctor had asked her what happened, but she simply said she accidentally stumbled down the front stoop. It was not very plausible. And she knew it. And the doctor knew it. And she knew the doctor knew it.

But today, she is courageous. And as she looked out across the city, she wondered what her new life would bring.

 

Courage

She’s been thinking a lot about courage today. She didn’t think she was an especially courageous person. No, courage was not the characteristic about her that immediately sprang to mind.

She was many things. Many great things, perhaps. She didn’t really know. Kind, maybe, and passive. She was involved in the church and all the other ladies said she made the best cheese and broccoli casserole. They wouldn’t let no other ladies make it but her. She didn’t tell them the secret ingredient was Campbell’s soup. So, maybe she wasn’t all that honest either.

But this morning, she thought of herself as courageous.

She, perhaps, had not been courageous the first time he hit her. The time she yelped as she was hit, before she learned that he enjoyed her cries of pain and surprise.

But today, she is courageous.

No, she had not  been especially courageous the many times since the first time, when she slunk to the back bedroom and did her best to remain quiet, lest he hear her over the sound of the TV.

But today, the bag was packed and sitting by the door, waiting for her to pick it up and walk out for good

Nor had she been especially courageous the last time, when she had to go to the hospital. The doctor had asked her what happened, but she simply said she accidentally stumbled down the front stoop. It was not very plausible. And she knew it. And the doctor knew it. And she knew the doctor knew it.

But today, she is courageous. And as she looks out over the plains, she wonders what her new life will bring.